The Chaldeans: Definition, History & Culture

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  • 0:00 Background to Chaldean Kingdom
  • 1:55 Nebuchadnezzar II
  • 2:54 Chaldean Culture
  • 3:38 Timeline of Chaldeans…
  • 5:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Flint Johnson

Flint has tutored mathematics through precalculus, science, and English and has taught college history. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow

This lesson will be about the history and culture of the Chaldeans, a Semitic tribe who lived in Mesopotamia during the last millennium before the Common Era.

Background to Chaldean Kingdom

The Chaldeans might have been history's biggest opportunists and most brilliant diplomats, which was good for them because they were never a military power. The Chaldeans, a Semitic-speaking tribe, migrated to a Mesopotamian region next to the Persian Gulf between 940 and 855 B.C.E. We don't know if they conquered anyone who was already there, but we can be certain they established a kingdom for the first time in their history. The Chaldeans were conquered by the Assyrian Empire in 852. For the next 232 years, the Chaldeans took advantage of every distraction to claim independence and create an empire. And every time, Babylonia or Assyria re-conquered them.

During that time, the Chaldeans must have farmed. After all, Mesopotamia was one of the most fertile regions in the world, ideal for farming, and cattle had been domesticated in Turkey around 8000 B.C.E. Most importantly, the Chaldeans developed a reputation for learning and a knowledge of the stars. Though we know nothing of what they might have seen or learned, the Chaldeans were believed to have a knowledge of math, writing, and astronomy.

In 620 B.C.E., revolts throughout the Assyrian Empire gave the Chaldeans the distraction they needed to take over Babylon. They used their new position to make an alliance that was able to end the Assyrians. In the peace that followed, the Chaldeans won Mesopotamia, apart from Assyria, along with Syria, Phoenicia, Israel, Cyprus, Edom, Philistia, and parts of Arabia. The Chaldeans had finally become a regional power.

Nebuchadnezzar II

The Chaldeans did pretty well as rulers. Nebuchadnezzar II began his rule in 604 B.C.E. and was the greatest of the Chaldean kings. He rebuilt all of the cities in Babylonia, making Babylon the jewel of his empire with a Mesopotamian pyramid called a ziggurat at the center, and next to a temple to Marduk, the King of the Gods. In warfare, he successfully defended his borders and expanded into Egypt and parts of Asia Minor. He was the king who captured Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar finally died in 562 B.C.E.

Nebuchadnezzar II's death was the end of Chaldean stability. Several rulers came and went quickly, and by 539, the Chaldean Empire had been conquered by the Persians. Within a couple of centuries, the word 'Chaldean' had ceased to have any ethnic meaning.

Chaldean Culture

We don't know of any particular scientific or cultural achievement that the Chaldeans contributed. However, masters of reading and writing, witchcraft and the stars were known as 'Chaldeans' among the their conquerors for the next couple hundred years.

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